The ties between Loop and Godflesh are long-standing ones, more overtly with the awesome Loopflesh split 7” back in 1991, though Robert Hampson’s guitarwork on Pure was another fine example of just how well these two units go together. People were reminded of this at Roadburn last year, when Hampson joined Godflesh for Straight To Your Heart and subsequently announced the reformation of Loop. To be honest, after that it was only a matter of time before the two would head out on tour again, and now here we are. It’s a pretty heavily Godflesh-oriented audience, from the look of the queue outside, and so there’s a pretty rapid dash as Godflesh take to the stage at an ungodly 8:15.
There’s little fanfare when Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green pick up tools and kick things into a slow, ominous start, the clanking of programmed drums a cold and foreboding framework for Green’s metallic basslines and the woefully underrated riffing of Broadrick, but it seems to be lacking something. Justin is rigid and static, like an action man missing a few points of articulation, and even Ringer, probably the track with the most live potential on new EP Decline and Fall, sounds impressive yet a bit underwhelming. All the textures, the foreboding, the punishing pressure are there, but there’s no spark to kick the machine into life.
And then Like Rats happens. It’s always strange when a single song can create such a huge turning point in a show, but in this case it’s an early, welcome turn-around, Justin physically lurching back into life and delivering with a direct, vicious air that could have been decades in the making. Whatever that indelible spark was that Godflesh always possessed, they haven’t lost it, and that savage cry of “You breed, like rats” is as good a sign of it as any. Christbait Rising and then Streetcleaner follow after, a triumvirate of pneumatic destruction from one of the most influential albums of the past quarter-century, and they are as corrosive as they ever were. There’s an sonic pressure that accompanies them and despite the obvious rage, it’s the cold, mechanistic nature of their sound that’s the most foreboding.
The laptop beats and waves of digitised foundry ambiance only get better as the night goes on, bouncing and creaking to Broadrick’s honky-tonk mania on Mothra and insistently pulsing, applying firm and crushing force to the pounding Monotremata. Even the background visuals have that same, uncompromising aesthetic, ranging from familiar images from Streetcleaner to more realistic and scathing depictions of human nature, unfeeling in their eyeball-scarring ways. Green’s work never shifts much from its grating baseplate though his tone fits so well with their stark aesthetic that it never really needs to. The mean groove of Spite reminds us all of just how much ground Godflesh covered in their career, a searing slab of heavy dub that allows Broadrick to flex and stretch both as a vocalist and a guitarist, and with Crush My Soul, they bring their set to a punishing climax. The jump-off might have been ropey but they nailed the execution and the landing, so it’s high scores all round for the Birmingham two.
While Godflesh have always been around me in some part, Loop had always remained off my personal radar with only a few random incursions throughout my life, including those aforementioned collisions with Godflesh. It takes me a little by surprise, then, when Loop immediately prove to be the louder of the two tonight. They’re My Bloody Valentine cast in concrete rather than velvet, a surge of pure sound that Hampson channels and directs in increasingly complex and dense spirals. Opener soundhead is a Krautrock-reaming gem, the repeating snare snaps of Wayne Maskell (The Heads) providing a split-second mesh with which Scott Dowson and Neil Mackay can roll out their rhythmic rituals.
The mixture of volume and understated flair from Hampson are a dream combination, the span akin to a Sunn O)))-worshipping cult ritual enacted solely by Deadheads but the spell is broken by the first of a series of technical problems that plague the night. The faulty monitors is a pain for the band and the repeated overheating of Hampson’s amp (thankfully, this is mostly confined to moments between songs) proves to be the bigger hindrance. It’s unfortunate, but they play around the hitches and sound all the better for it. Straight To Your Heart far outstrips last year’s rendition, the low burn of vocal drawl and eruptions of six-string prowess an affecting moment that shines as the highlight of their set.
While those high-flying moments certainly make an impact, it’s Loop’s talent for weaving somnambulistic rituals that seem to best define them, and staying conscious during Forever is a brave challenge that most are struggling with. It’s buzzy, trippy and drags the room into a seeming stupor. Breathe Into Me picks them up for a brief moment but then the gentle caress of Burning World starts, Mackay’s heart-warming bassline and the ripples of reverb wafting around the stage like so much incense kick that sleep-tractor-beam dealio back into overdrive. The technical hitches briefly return but they push through before slowly trundling to a halt. They’ve never had much with playing Glasgow, it seems, and tonight was likely no exception, but despite all the hiccups, this was a fantastic psych treat that punched you in the face then kissed it better, repeatedly. SWG3 might well be one of the most awkward venues in Glasgow, location-wise, but once again they’ve shown that they can’t seem to put a bad gig on. Long live Loop. Long live Godflesh. Long live Loopflesh.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes
Photos by: Alex Woodward (www.crimsonglow.co.uk)